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MPs must cancel half-term holiday and fix Brexit crisis

by Luke Lythgoe | 21.01.2019

Amazingly, despite the growing Brexit crisis, MPs are still scheduled to go on a 10-day half-term holiday from February 14 to 25. It is the height of ski season after all. But they should think twice. The public would take a very dim view of parliamentarians hitting the slopes in Europe, just seven weeks before the UK could crash out of it.

There has been talk of cancelling the February parliamentary recess since before Christmas. Many are concerned Parliament won’t have time to scrutinise, debate and pass the legislation needed to make Brexit happen on March 29. When MPs returned from their Christmas break on January 7, one Whitehall official told the Telegraph: “Even if MPs sat at weekends and cancelled their holiday there would be less time than you would normally leave to get this sort of work done.”

Since then, the prime minister’s deal has suffered a historic defeat in Parliament. That’s set everything back further.

Theresa May also seems determined to continue her strategy of running down the Brexit clock, hoping to bounce MPs into backing her deal for fear of no-deal chaos. Rather than coming up with any new “plan B”, May told cabinet ministers yesterday that her plan was to return to Brussels to seek concessions on the backstop. She pursued the same strategy, unsuccessfully, when she was buying time before Christmas.

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If May’s plan is for more delay, then MPs’ February holiday plays into her strategy. Government officials now believe that a new “meaningful vote” on whatever revised deal May presents will not take place until the middle of next month, according to the Times. More negotiations with the EU, plus perhaps another five days of parliamentary debate, would take us to either the week before recess or the recess itself. That’s another week of breathing space in which May and her whips can gesture furiously at the “no deal” deadline creeping closer.

This is a reckless way to govern a country. The mere risk of “no deal” is already draining the economy, diverting billions of pounds of government resources and causing huge concern among the public – from business owners to patients of chronic medical conditions.

But MPs don’t have to play the May’s game. There’s plenty they can do to speed the Brexit process along even as the prime minister dithers. They can come up with innovative ways to force the government’s hand. They can spend time trying to work out what outcome, if any, has a majority in Parliament – for example by ruling out options that don’t stack up.

If politicians want to avoid the condemnation of their constituents and the country at large, they need to leave their salopettes in the cupboard and crack on with solving this national crisis.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “MPs must cancel half-term holiday and fix Brexit crisis”

  • There has been little mention of the fact that the referendum was only meant to be advisory. Surely that must mean that confirmation in some form is needed before a decision can be made.